Marathon Training

How to Overcome the Highs and Lows of Training

The last few weeks have been full ones. Lots of highs and a few lows.

A few big life changes. A vacation. An injury.

Then lots of rest…hoping the “injury” was really just an irritation that would resolve itself in a few days and go away on its own.

It didn’t.

So, I found myself here, in a wonderful podiatrist’s office.

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Good advice, right?

After an X-ray, an exam that included poking and moving my foot around to determine if my pain was Achille’s tendon-related, Dr. Mark pulled out the ultrasound. After having two kids, it’s bizarre to have someone get that out and stick it on your foot.

The prognosis? A torn perineal brevis tendon, more minimal than the Achilles. Rehab for four weeks, plus topical anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and this bad boy….

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Not my idea of a cute shoe, but at least it’s only for a half-hour on each side in the evening.

All right, so all of this probably appears to spell “you’re crazy to keep going and run the marathon.”

On the contrary; I know when it comes to marathon training, you have to overcome a lot of highs and lows.

There are going to be crummy weather conditions while you prepare for the marathon.

Run anyway.

Life is going to throw all kinds of crazy curve balls at you that threaten to eat up your training time.

Run anyway.

Your body will likely be sore, overtired, overused and slightly broken during or after the marathon.

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Take the advice of a doctor, but keep going.

I’ve been banned from running on pavement, but cleared for the elliptical machine and encouraged to get back to weight training. So, there’s my silver lining.

I’m not stuck on a couch rendered helpless. I can still prepare even if my Boston Marathon run isn’t my best time.

In short, if you’re trying to figure out how to overcome the highs and lows of training, just decide.

Then, let  your feet do the rest.

2012 Boston Marathon Tips

Are You Mentally Prepared?

It’s been a year since I ran the 115th Boston Marathon and definitely a time for reflection. I think the biggest part of my preparation that could have been better was my mental preparation. As I’ve shared before on this blog, mental preparation is so key for success.

I was so drained from raising money for charity, getting my travel plans in order and training that when I found myself at the starting line, the event hit me like a ton of bricks.

Hopefully, this year’s round of Boston Marathon runners will take heed to Runner’s World’s recent spotlight article called “8 Mental Tricks for Boston Runners.” Boy, I wish I had been able to hear Harvard psychologist and Runner’s World advisor Dr. Jeff Brown prior to my race! Dr. Brown has been the psychologist assisting the Boston Marathon for more than a decade, so he knows all about the psychology of marathon running.

In the video, Dr. Brown shares his eight mental strategies for runners. Here’s a quick synopsis:

1. Trust Your Training. Set up a routine and follow the routine in advance. Going over your plan will help reduce anxiety, according to Brown.

2. Eliminate the Doubts. Keep positive self statements in your mind. Negative thoughts make your shoes heavy, says Brown.

3. Put Life’s Distractions Away Before and During the Race. Self explanatory.

4. If Something Unexpected Happens…accept it for what it is and don’t worry about it. Perfection isn’t required to finish the race, explains Brown.

5. Overcome HeartBreak Hill. Mental tricks like repeating “glide,” “up,” and using other positive word associations will take your mind off your body and performance.

6. Indulge Your Superstitions. Superstitions can help you feel positive and encouraged. And, if you lost lucky your socks, don’t worry. Embrace new types of luck.

7. Choose 2 or 3 Goals. Setting several goals for your race is helpful so you can feel successful at multiple times during the race and feel overall satisfied with your race performance even if you didn’t hit your PR (personal record) time, says Brown.

8. Remind Yourself “Why” You’re Doing It. Know why you’re there and focus on it. Whether it’s your kids waiting for you at the finish line, accomplishing your ultimate goal or gaining bragging rights, focus on your “why.”

Watch Dr. Brown’s video here.

CoQ10 is Wonder Supplement For Muscle Recovery in Runners

I love it when I finally stumble across research that supports what my intuition told me, don’t you?

Here’s a really exciting discovery for me: while using a supplement by Isagenix that includes CoQ10, Resveratrol and Vitamin D, I noticed that my running performance seemed to enhance. I felt like my recovery was stronger, that I was even breathing better and performing better during my long runs.

Come to find out, Spanish researchers say CoQ10 makes a huge difference for us runners. Wahoo!

Here’s an excerpt from an article published by the Isagenix Research & Development Team on IsagenixHealth.net,:

“Researchers from the University of Granada of Spain wrote, ‘The present findings provide evidence that oral supplementation of coQ10 during high-intensity exercise is efficient reducing the degree of oxidative stress… [and] muscle damage during physical performance.’ 

The researchers, who published their results in the European Journal of Nutrition, supplemented 20 highly trained male athletes with either a placebo or coQ10 prior to a 50-kilometer run across one of the most difficult terrains in Europe.”

The result? 

“…a significantly greater increase in oxidative stress in the placebo group compared to the coQ10 group. Similarly, the athletes consuming the coQ10 supplement also had evidence of increased antioxidant defenses and reduction in overexpression of pro-inflammatory genes.  Finally, coQ10 reduced levels of creatinine, an indicator of muscle breakdown, compared to the placebo group.”

Amazing, right?? Supplementing with CoQ10 with products like Ageless Actives by Isagenix can actually protect your muscles and improve how your cells respond to intense exercise better than not supplementing!  

By the way, CoQ10 is naturally produced in your body, but as you age, your body can’t produce it the way it used to. CoQ10, as the study points out, assists your cells to reduce breakdown in your body. Youthful aging and improved running performance? Yes please!

6 Key Tips for Running on Vacation

I always look forward to going on vacation—who doesn’t? But an added bonus for me is exploring a new city on foot in the early morning hours.

It’s sort of a tradition for me; when I arrived at Arizona State University, the first thing I did was lace up my running shoes to take a tour of campus. A stint in Maine to visit family meant morning runs down dirt roads near fields and old farm houses.

I’m lucky enough to be in Boulder, Colorado for a good friend’s wedding and I couldn’t wait to go on a run. So, as is routine, during my first morning here in Colorado, I donned running shoes, capri running pants, tech shirt and finally, my official Boston Marathon windbreaker jacket (yay!) and set off on my adventure.

One of the best parts of being a runner is you can enjoy your sport wherever you go. We’re situated near University of Colorado’s Boulder campus (go Buffs, as my friend would say!). I decided to head in the direction of campus and explore a bit.

So, what should you keep in mind when you run on vacation? Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Plan your route. Whether you’re staying at a hotel or at a family member’s house, ask for directions of where you should go. Odds are, they can point you in the right (and safest!) direction.

2. Skip the music. We all enjoy the background music, but when you’re in an unfamiliar area, it’s key to be as alert and aware as possible when you go running.

3. Pay close attention to signs. Traffic flow is often very different in every city you visit. Keep an eye out for more “yield” signs, never jay walk and be aware of cyclists.

4. Bring ID & a few bucks. Always stash your phone and your driver’s license or other ID and some cash in your pockets just in case.

5. Run early. Stick to the early morning hours for ideal temps, a sunny start and a guarantee that you’ll get your run in. Studies show that those who exercise in the morning stick with it more than those who try for evenings when plans often change.

6. Tell someone where you’re going. Simple as that: Always loop someone in on where you’re headed, or, take them with you if possible.

Bottom line: running on vacation is one of the best ways to get familiar with a city as long as you stay safe. You’ll be surprised at how easy it will be to get around, sans the GPS.

Oh, PF Chang’s Half Marathon…

**WARNING: Runner rant up ahead.**

So I just saw the new course unveiled for the 2012 Pf Chang’s Half Marathon here in Phoenix. Personally, having run the course six times during its near-decade tenure and I have to say, I didn’t think the course could get any worse.

But, it did.

Half marathon course is marked in blue

Rather than starting the half-marathon in downtown Phoenix a few streets up from the full marathon start, they’ve now moved the course to downtown Tempe. From there, rather than criss-crossing through Phoenix and under freeways like the previous course (literal GAG; very gross), now you get to run to McClintock Drive on Rio Salado (yawn) run through Papago Park back into downtown Tempe to finish at ASU.

Okay, maybe I’m not giving the new course a good enough shake. Maybe I need to remember the desert hills the course passes by; the lack of miles-long straightaways that plagued the previous course and the logistical nightmare of getting bused to downtown on time. But, wasn’t that all part of the fun?

I ran cross country races in the Tempe area in high school and then went to Arizona State University. I’ve run many, many miles around this area of town. Endless sidewalks, sketchy subjects at times and super urban. Granted, I never liked the smoggy setting between downtown and Tempe on the previous route, but I loved starting the PF Chang’s race in the downtown Phoenix area. Let’s face it, Phoenix might not be as splashy as some other downtowns, but it’s what we have and it’s still pretty cool.

Starting and finishing in Tempe doesn’t give someone a proper glimpse of the Valley; you still only see the shady, icky stuff. AND might I note, that while this course is further east, it feels WAY too similar to the Arizona Women’s Half Marathon (don’t even get me started on that course).

Anyway, rants aside, I know that running a half-marathon is still a huge accomplishment and regardless of if you like the course or not, it’s still a feat that few will ever attempt. Kudos to those who decide to give PF Chang’s a whirl this year.

(And, if you want my opinion, skip PF Changs’ crazy huge crowds, hold off a month, save money AND get a better view by running the Lost Dutchman Half Marathon. You won’t regret it!!)

5 Ways to Bid Good-Bye to Boring Runs

There are two reactions I always get when someone finds out that I’m a runner.

Reaction 1: “I could never do that.” (Not true, btw; everyone can do this!)

Reaction 2: “Running is so boring. How do you stay entertained?”

Well, let me tell you.

Back in the day, as a cross country runner in high school, we were minimalists when it came to training. You might wear a running watch to keep your time, but other than that, we didn’t rely on Camelpacks for water (and yes, I grew up running every day at 3 p.m. August-November in 100+ degree heat on Arizona canals) or music from iPods. Our running soundtrack included the sounds of our own breath and the crunching of gravel.

College came and I no longer had my training crew. Off on my own, I decided to give music a whirl.

It was amazing what it did for my running.

In the times that I started to drag, a fun song would come on and suddenly I was ready to run a few more miles. I felt more relaxed and less inclined to think about the things in my life that tended to stress me out and drain me (and also derail my run. Running is, after all, 90% mental, right?)

So, what’s the best way to incorporate music into your run? Here are a few fun ideas to get you going:

1. Tailor Your Running Mix. We all know about play lists, especially if we’re i-Whatever fans. Sit down and have some fun by putting together an eclectic mix of your favorite, upbeat songs. Try to keep them at a moderate tempo unless you’re going aiming to rival Speedy Gonzalez.

2. Play the Music Game. While out for a run, use music to add small speed intervals. When an energizing song comes on that perks you up, go with it. Kick up your speed a notch, look for a landmark in front of you (a sign, rock, etc) and run to that point and then revert back to your tempo speed once you reach it.

3. Switch it Up. Eventually we all get bored with the mix of songs we have on our i-Whatevers. Find another running friend or music enthusiast and ask them to put together their favorite mix of songs on a CD for you. Upload it to your i-Whatev and enjoy a fresh hodgepodge to change up your running soundtrack. (I once did this with a friend before a marathon and every mile was a new surprise!)

4. Get into Gear. I’m not a techie and stick with the basics (as you’ve likely noted by the picture above). If you have a bulkier i-Whatever or smarty-pants phone, get a special armband or other holder to keep your music player in line. Be forewarned: Do not add an armband to your routine right before a race or you will likely experience chafe-city, and believe me, it’s not fun.

5. Keep it Safe. If you choose to add music, always keep it to a background level. Not only will your ears thank you later on in life, but you’ll also be able to remain alert. You should still be able to hear small sounds behind you, cars nearby, etc. If you ever find yourself “surprised” by a person or car, odds are good that you need to adjust your volume. Ladies: if you run with music when it’s dark out, take an ear bud out so you can be extra alert.

We all have our preferences when it comes to running. Sometimes we need to take a break from distractions and leave our i-Whatevers at home. Other times, it’s a great thing to incorporate music as a fun distraction to liven up and re-energize your running routine. So jump online and find that old Madonna song or download the latest poppy tune. Your next run might be your best yet!

My Affair

Credit: YogaFuture.com

I’ll admit it: I’m having an affair.

No, definitely not the extramarital kind.

If you know me, you know that running has always been there for me. Me and running, well, we’re just like peas and carrots. Pork chops and applesauce. Peanut butter and jelly. But, I have to admit, I just needed a break…and I craved a little adventure.

Enter hot yoga.

Last year around this time, I tried out bikram yoga for the first time and discovered a whole new world. Now, for runners, this seems completely out of our typical “zone.” I mean, we pound our bodies hard and we might stretch our muscles a bit, but if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s maybe a few minutes before and after a good run, if that.

With its deep-breathing techniques, muscle-isolating stretching and toning exercises and plenty of time to simply quiet the mind, I’d argue that yoga (bikram, hot or any other form) is the PERFECT companion to running.

My experience led me to Hot Yoga Ahwatukee where a good friend of mine teaches hot yoga. So what’s hot yoga like? Here’s just a quick snapshot of my experience:

5:15 a.m. I arrive at the studio, stow my flip flops and personal belongings in the locker room and wander into the 105-degree heated room. I try to position my bright pink mat under a fan. Cooler maybe?

5:30 a.m. sharp. My friend quietly enters the room and invites the 15 or so of us to stand in mountain pose at the top of our mat, encouraging us to relax and stare at ourselves in the mirror, correct anything and set our “intention” for our practice. Mine? Stick through it and stay in the moment.

Our first few minutes are devoted to simply breathing in deeply through our nose for several counts and then releasing that breath through our mouths, squeezing every bit out that we can. I’m amazed at how it impacts my breathing, which has honestly always been one of the most challenging parts of running. (As weird as that sounds.)

5:45 a.m. – 6:45 a.m.

We do flow yoga poses that I can’t even begin to get into (I am, after all, an amateur), but I notice the deep breathing through the nose, the bend, twist and stretch loosen my always-tight IT band and hamstring. Bingo–running benefit!

After 75 minutes of class, about 32 ounces of sweat and one water bottle later, class is over and I feel relaxed–my shoulders aren’t trying to stay near my ears; my steps feel even and I feel strong. Perfect way to start my day.

Honestly, if I had all the money in the world, the practice of hot yoga would ALWAYS be part of my running routine. Unfortunately, this affair is a little more costly than my wallet can bear, unless another Groupon decides to surface. :)

So, whether you’re a runner, an exercise fiend or sports nut of any kind, I highly recommend trying out yoga, if not to relax your mind and bring extra peace, but to release some of the tightness we tend to build up in our hips, legs and other major muscle groups.

Running, I promise I’ll get back to you in full force soon. My Groupon for my yoga affair ends later this week.

My First Day Barefoot…Running

I’ve been running since I was 11 years old. It started with those after school fun runs. Most of the time, I wasn’t prepared for a 1-mile run around the school, so I’d just run in whatever. It always killed me to see the neighbor boys come in first, even though I wasn’t particularly athletic.

Years later, when I went back to visit my former sixth grade teacher, she recalled that I “beat her” in a fun run one time wearing flat dressy sandals. I don’t remember that race in particular, but I do remember that I did not get my first pair of real running shoes (Saucony) until I was in seventh grade. That’s when my affair with distance running (and fancy, expensive running shoes) began.

Today, 16 years later, I left my running shoes behind for the first time ever. (Okay, so I started out with my minimalist racing flats first, but I’ll get to that.)

So I’m reading a book called “Born to Run,” by Christopher McDougall. McDougall is a magazine writer who’s written for Runner’s World, Men’s Health and many other health-minded mags on the market today. It wasn’t until he had a literal and figurative run in with multiple injuries that he began investigating how some people could run ultramarathons (50 – 100+ miles at a time) and not incur any injuries, while the average weekend warrior suffered with multiple bouts of plantar fascitis, shin splints and other nagging foot and leg injuries.

While in Mexico, he stumbled (no pun intended) across an article that changed everything. He read about the Tarahumara tribe in the canyons of Mexico that would run for long periods of time with seemingly super human strength and endurance. Wearing nothing but sandals, they raced faster and farther than anything he’d ever seen.

He weaves the story of his encounters with the Tarahumara with pages of findings from studies, podiatrists and other experts who explain why runners deal with the nagging injuries they do and comes to one pretty clear conclusion: It’s our shoes.

Being a runner for this long, it’s not like I haven’t heard this before. There are tons of conspiracy theories out there and many times, this debate about the shoes is largely couched in the argument that running/athletic shoes are money makers–it’s just the big corporations trying to get more money.

After reading much of this book, that’s starting to gel with me a bit, but so much more keeps coming up. Like the study that surveyed a large field of marathon runners and found that you were more than 123 percent MORE likely to suffer a foot or leg injury if you were wearing the top-of-the-line running shoes. The runners in that study who wore cheapy, $40 shoes were less likely to have had injuries.

Why?

Or, let’s observe the untouchable Kenyan runners whose turnovers, foot strikes and strides have been studied by coaches, envied by elite runners and simply stunned everyone on the Olympic landscape. Are they just phenoms or is there something to it? Trivia fact from the book: Most Kenyan runners do not receive their first set of running shoes until they’re 17 or older. By that point, they’ve been running miles barefoot or in minimalist shoes from the time they were little.

McDougall sides with the studies pointing to barefoot or minimalist shoe running is BETTER overall for your feet because it challenges them to self-correct, grow stronger and also more elastic. There’s no room for your foot to get lazy if it has no cushion or padded structure to push it this way or that. The shoe’s not doing the work for you, so you’d better straighten up, Foot.

For the first time, I started looking at my running shoes as the PROBLEM rather than the SOLUTION. Amazing, even though I do feel a slight twinge of guilt glancing at my blue and silver Asic Gel Kayanos. Those babies felt like pillows when I first tried them on. If only I had known that the left one would stab my foot about 10 miles in to every run…

So, back to this morning. Went out in my old high school racing flats without socks (bad idea) and about a mile in, took off my shoes to run in the grassy park by the side of the road only to discover that my right shoe had completely rubbed the skin off the back of my heel. Ouch.

After a small jog up and down the greenbelt, I opted to pick up my shoes and keep running…barefoot.

Even running down a busy, urban street, there was something freeing (not crazy) about running barefoot. The feel of the cool, smooth sidewalk under my feet. Experiencing my toes gripping the ground and sliding across it in a natural movement. Compared to what I was feeling in that moment, I might as well have been wearing boats on the bottoms of my feet with my high-tech running shoes. This was running heaven.

I ran 1.5 miles without my shoes on, purely barefoot. Yes, I encountered a few pebbles that met my feet in a not-so-nice way, but all in all there weren’t any catastrophes. I didn’t feel like I was “that” weird person. Honestly, I didn’t care.

Next, I’ll probably be looking into the Vibram FiveFingers as a new footwear option (pictured left).

Call me crazy, but I think I’ve just found my new niche. :)

Follow My Boston Marathon Journey

Last night I was packing my bags for my Boston Marathon trip and my mind had already begun to race.

What will the weather be like? Oh, I can’t forget the extra power gel. Should I pack an extra North Face jacket for before the race…yes, just in case. I wonder what Heartbreak Hill will live up to the hype.

I decided to pack a separate Isagenix® duffle bag to tote with me on the plane just in case my luggage gets lost en route to Boston (having traveled to Boston Logan a few times, I know what can happen). I might be without my makeup or regular clothes for a few days, but at least the really important essentials will be close to the hip.

Again, I am just so filled with gratitude for all of the tremendous support I’ve received along the way and the encouraging words I’m hearing from my friends and colleagues as the day draws nearer….even got a call from my friend in Alaska who had her special education class sing a rendition of “Happy Marathon Day” (think: Happy Birthday song, but with “happy marathon” instead) to me over my cell phone. Gosh, I feel so special and loved!!!!

So, if you want to follow me on the “big day,” here’s the info on how to do it:

  • The Boston Marathon will be televised in the U.S. live in its entirety via Universal Sports. Here’s more info.
  • If you want texts sent to your phone with updates on my progress, you can sign up via AT&T Athlete Alert. Just text the word “RUNNER” to 345678 and you’ll get updates at the 10km, halfway, 30km and finish line.
  • My bib number is 26722 and I’ll be in the final wave and corral since a time is not required for a charity runner.

I’ll try my best to post updates and pictures of my experience along the way and will definitely post a follow up reflection and play-by-play after race day on Monday, April 18.

Thanks for following me and I can’t wait to share more about this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Dreams DO come true!!!  :D

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

For the past two weeks, I’ve been glued to the weather reports.

Being that the Boston Marathon will be my fourth marathon experience, there are few surprises about the length, what I’ll likely be feeling (although it’s not uncommon for new things to pop up) and how I’ll hydrate.

But, my last three marathons have been in WARM temps. We’re talking 80 degrees+. San Diego. Apache Junction, Ariz. Tucson, Ariz.

Now, I’m going to Boston where the weather has traditionally been 50 degrees, breezy and possibly rainy on Boston Marathon day.

Today, in the suburbs of Phoenix, it’s pouring rain and about 45 degrees; pretty much how I anticipate race day to be. I so wish I had my rain gear ready so I could be doing a training run right now in this weather. Ugghhh!!!

Here are a few things some running friends have recommended for rainy days. Feel free to share yours (I need all the help I can get!):

  • Pauncho-Frio. Wal-Mart’s camping section apparently sells small, compact packages of paunchos that you can tuck in your training belt in case it begins to pour.
  • Roll Up Your Arm Sleeves. If you don’t want to wear a long-sleeved shirt because it might warm up, arm sleeves are a great alternative. Basically they cover your arms from your wrists to over your biceps and you can unroll them and toss them in your training belt if the weather starts looking up. (I’ve also heard of taking tube socks and creating your own makeshift ones for chilly race days.)
  • Rainy Lightweight. There are tons of specialty running jackets you can purchase out there that are lightweight, breathable and meant for rainy conditions. Asics is a recommended brand, which is no surprise since their running shoes tend to top all others in design and functionality.
  • Cap It Off. Wearing a hat with a visor is another big recommendation I’ve been seeing on the running message boards. Not only does the brim keep the rain out of your eyes, but a full-coverage hat gives your head added protection and warmth.
  • Just Wick It. Moisture-wicking fabric is the way to go for any weather conditions, but especially for hot or rainy temps. Unlike cotton, which keeps moisture close to the body and has a hard time drying (which can actually make it difficult for your body to regulate your temperature), the moisture-wicking materials found in most tech shirts keeps you drier.
  • Stick It. When your feet get wet during rainy days, the best way to prevent blisters (or at least head them off at the pass) is to cover up hot spots with moleskin, a Band-Aid (not a fan–they come off a little too easily) or, in worst-case scenarios, I’ve heard that duct tape is a great alternative as it stays in place. I’ve never had to test out any of these, but I have friends that swear by the moleskin and duct tape methods. (I’ll probably roll up some duct tape and include it in my pack.)

This weekend, I will be making my purchases and will let you know how things go weather-wise with Boston. Is it crazy that I’m more concerned about the weather than anything else??

P.S. Isagenix just featured me in a post on IsagenixHealth.net about marathon nutrition, hydration, etc. Check it out! :)